Bearded Dragons are truly fascinating reptiles and one of their most curious features has to be the sudden appearance of stress marks.
As a Bearded Dragon enthusiast, this is always something that sparked a lot more questions than answers so I decided to do some in-depth research, consult the experts and finally get the answers to why Bearded Dragons get stress marks.
What are Bearded Dragons get stress marks? Stress marks on a Bearded Dragon are dark lines or oval shapes that appear primarily on the belly but can appear on the beard and limbs. They are usually caused by some form of anxiety or stress as the name would suggest.
Read on to find out more about what Bearded Dragon stress makes are, what causes them, how long they last for and how to calm down a stressed Bearded Dragon.
What are Bearded Dragon Stress Marks (A Closer Look)
As mentioned at the top of this post, Bearded Dragons can get stress marks when they put in situations of elevated stress as the name would suggest.
Stress marks will usually appear in the form of dark lines (almost like small tiger stripes) or dark oval-shaped marks on your Bearded Dragons belly.
You may also notice them on your Dragons beard and other limbs but the belly is the primary spot for stress marks to appear.
There are many reasons why Bearded Dragons get stress marks. Some of the reasons are very easy to spot and can be dealt with pretty quickly while others may be more subtle and need a little more detective work before you can identify the reason for the heightened stress or anxiety.
We will go all the reasons why Bearded Dragons get stressed shortly but one of the most common of these reasons is ‘relocation stress’
If you notice that your Bearded Dragon has stress marks you should never panic as an easy solution is usually within touching distance.
How long Do Stress Marks Last?
How long a Bearded Dragon will have stress marks will often depend on a number of factors.
The first question you have to ask is “is your bearded Dragon being exposed to the situation that is stressing them consistently?” if the answer is yes, then there is a high chance that the stress marks will stay there for much longer.
In contrast, if your Dragon is subject to a stressful situation and shortly after the situation is resolved then the stress marks should disappear pretty quickly.
With all things considered the average time for stress marks to last is anything from a few hours to over a week depending on the age of the Dragon and the situation.
Baby Bearded Dragons are also known to sometimes keep stress marks right through to adulthood where they will eventually disappear. This can happen even if they were only stressed for a short period of time and perfectly fine and happy afterwards.
What Causes Stress Marks On a Bearded Dragon?
There are many situations that can cause your Bearded Dragon to come out in stress marks.
Knowing what these potential situations are can help you find the source of the problem and then calming your Dragon and eliminating the problem should be much easier.
Let’s take a look at the situations that can cause a Bearded Dragon to have stress marks.
Wrong Tank Temperature Causing Stress Marks
Bearded Dragons are known to show stress marks when they are too cold.
This can often happen in the morning. When your Dragon has been sleeping through the night in colder temperatures they can show stress marks until they warm up under the basking lamp and then the marks will often disappear.
If you notice this, the first thing you need to do is ensure that the temperature at falls into the 70°-75°F range so your Dragon isn’t too cold throughout the night. (check out the chart below for a guide to Bearded Dragon tank temperatures)
The second thing you need to do is make sure that the basking area temperature is at the correct level.
Doing both these things will allow your Dragon to sleep comfortably without getting too hot or cold and then increase their body temperature to the required level correctly in the morning.
If you are confident that the temperatures at night and in the basking area are correct then this should be fine and there isn’t really anything to worry about.
Bearded Dragons can also get stress marks when they get too hot and can’t cool down so it’s important that you stick to healthy temperatures and have a gradient of around a 20°F from the basking area to the cool spot.
Here’s a guide that shows you how to set up the lighting in your Bearded Dragons tank and the best and most reliable equipment to use.
Take a look at the chart below to help you establish healthy tank temperatures for your Bearded Dragon. The chart should be used as a guide only and you should always consult your vet if in doubt.
Bearded Dragon Tank Temperature Guide
|Basking Area 100°-110°F||Basking Area 95°-100°F||Basking Area 95°-100°F|
|Cool Spot 80°-90°F||Cool Spot 75°-80°F||Cool Spot 75°-80°F|
|Night 70°-75°F||Night 70°-75°F||Night 70°-75°F|
Relocation Stress Marks
Relocation stress is very common in Bearded Dragons and this can then cause some Dragons to develop stress marks as a physical expression to how they feel about the sudden change that they are encountering.
This is most common in baby Bearded Dragons because they will usually spend the first few weeks of their life in one location just as they are getting comfortable they are suddenly be given a new home, new owners, new surroundings, possibly new family pets and lots more to encounter.
This drastic change can cause the baby to feel anxiety and stress and then often shows on the body as stress marks.
Later on in this post, we will talk about how you can calm and settle a Bearded Dragon that is new to your home and showing signs of stress.
One thing you need to do right off the bat is to make sure that the babies tank is the right size as this can play a big part in allowing them to settle much quicker.
Here’s a post that shares the best tank sizes for baby, juvenile and adult Bearded Dragons and why they need these tank sizes.
It’s also possible for adult Bearded Dragons to suffer from relocation stress if they if you have moved to a new home, moved your Dragons tank to a new room in the house or even changed furniture round in your home.
The good news is that with both these types of stress, they usually disappear in a short period of time once your Bearded Dragon gets used to the change.
I would always recommend that you have lots of good hides and tank decor that helps to create a habitat that your Dragon would experience in the wild. This way they will feel much more at home and safe and the chance of them getting stressed will be vastly reduced.
Here’s a post that shares great options for hides, tunnels and other decor to create a fantastic looking tank for your Dragon.
No Place to Hide Can Cause Stress Marks
Bearded Dragons just love places to hide and anytime they are unsure about a given situation they will more often than not take cover under a rock or inside a tunnel until they can assess the situation.
If they don’t have any hides or the hides they have either aren’t big enough or don’t look natural enough then there’s a strong possibility that your Dragon won’t use them or at very least won’t feel safe when using them.
I’ve written a guide here that lists some of the best hides, tunnels and decor you need to create a beautiful habitat that will allow your Dragon to feel safe and comfortable.
I’ve also recently written a post here that talks all about why hides are important, where they should be placed and more.
Remember that Bearded Dragons are naturally very placid and aggression is the last thing on their mind while hiding is the most natural thing for them to do in uncertain situations.
If your Dragon doesn’t feel comfortable using their hides then they can easily feel exposed and this can be a major contributor to both stress and therefore stress marks.
Other Bearded Dragons Causing Stress Marks
If you house more than one Bearded Dragon in the same tank then it’s not uncommon for one of the Dragons to seek dominance and this can lead to all sorts of problems for both Bearded Dragons and you as an owner.
The dominant Bearded Dragon can intimidate the submissive Dragon not letting them eat, bask or near certain areas of the tank.
The submissive Dragon can also have tails and toes nibbled. The whole situation is enough to cause anxiety, stress and stress marks.
I would never recommend housing more than one Bearded Dragon in the same tank as the chance of something going wrong is so high that it’s just not worth it.
If you are considering getting another Bearded Dragon or you have 2 Dragons in the same tank it may be worth taking a look at this post that explains why it’s not a good idea for them to live together.
Stress Marks From Other Household Pets
It’s quite common that other household pets such as dogs or cats can cause you Bearded Dragon to show stress marks.
This is usually due to them making your Dragon feel intimidated or threatened.
Don’t forget that those cute and cuddly dogs and cats that we know and love are much larger than your Bearded Dragon and they can quite easily mistake them for predators.
This will usually happen with either a baby Dragon that is new to the house or if you have a new pet.
Stressful situations can also arise when dogs get giddy or start barking when there is someone at the front door.
I’ve written an in-depth post here that details how you can help Bearded Dragons and dogs play together and be comfortable with each other so if you suspect that your Dragon is getting stressed because of your dog then it’s certainly worth a read.
The Wrong Sized Tank Is Stressful For Your Bearded Dragon
In the wind, Bearded Dragon like all other mother natures creatures are allowed to roam and have no walls and boundaries, however, in captivity they spend most of their time in the confines of their tank.
For this reason, it’s important that you provide them with a tank that is the right size.
Baby Bearded Dragons don’t actually need large tanks as they can get more stressed when in larger spaces before they’ve had time to get used to their surroundings and it’s also hard for them to hunt insects in a large tank when they are young as they are not yet accomplished hunters.
Adult Bearded Dragons, on the other hand, need larger tanks that allow them to move around more freely and also allow you as the owner to create a natural habit for them to enjoy and be happy in.
Below is a chart for sharing tank size a Bearded Dragons needs for its age. Please use this chart as a guide only.
If you are wanting to know more about how to pick the correct tank size for your Bearded Dragon then check out this complete tank size guide.
I’ve also listed what I think are the best tanks for baby, juvenile and adults here so you can be sure you pick the correct tank right off the bat.
Bearded Dragon | Age, Growth & Tank Size Chart
Loud Noise And Stress Marks
A less obvious cause of stress marks is loud noises that scare your Dragon.
If all is quiet in your house and all of a sudden there is a barking dog or fireworks outside then this can easily be enough to stress your Dragon and cause them to display stress marks.
Other noises from things like the television or radio are still enough the cause uncertainty if your Bearded Dragon has no idea what the sound is and if it’s coming from something that has the intention of harming them.
I really don’t think this is as common as some of the reasons we have already talked about, however, this will totally depend on where you live and where you house your Dragon, for example, if they are near the window or television then you may see noise affecting them more.
Boredom And Stress
Another less known reason for a Bearded Dragon developing stress marks is the fact that they are bored.
In the wild, Bearded Dragons would always have something to focus on such catching prey, basking in the sun and staying away from predators.
In captivity, all they have to think about in basking and for the most part that’s it.
There are 3 main things you can do to ensure that your Dragon doesn’t get bored and therefore, for the most part, stays stress-free and they are
- Have the right sized tank
- Create a natural-looking habitat
- Use toys, games and activities
We have already talked about how the correct tank size is important and how you need to create a tank that reflects their natural habitat but it’s also important to try and incorporate toys, games and activities to stop them getting bored and possibly getting those stress marks.
I understand that it can be hard to brainstorm toys and activities for you and your Bearded Dragon to enjoy so I’ve written a post that shares 17 different toy and activity options for you and most of them are either cheap or don’t cost a penny.
Getting Stress Marks About That Dirty Tank
Bearded Dragons are very clean reptiles and they like their tank to be clean also.
One thing that Bearded Dragons hate is for their tank to smell of poop and urine.
It’s important that you clean the tank regularly as they are known to show signs of stress and even display stress marks if they are living in a dirty tank.
Having a regular cleaning schedule and choosing a substrate that is easy to clean and doesn’t smell of bodily fluids is a must if you are to keep your Dragon happy in their tank.
I would always recommend using excavator clay as the best all-round substrate. Not just for how easy it is to clean but also for how natural it looks among many other reasons.
Here’s a guide that lists all the different options for substrates and gives pro’s and con’s for each so you can make the best choice for your specific needs.
Stressed About Food
All animals are hard-wired to survive and Bearded Dragons are no different.
They think about food almost all of the time and if for any reason they can’t get what they want it can often lead to them showing stress marks as a result.
This could be because they are being offered less food than they need, for example, baby Bearded Dragons need to be fed more often than adults as they as growing at a ferocious pace they need for nutrients is much higher.
If you have a baby Bearded Dragon and you aren’t sure how many times a day to feed them or even what you can feed them they take a look at this post where I go through the whole diet process for babies.
Sometimes food can stress a Bearded Dragon for less obvious reasons. The most common reason is having a box of crickets or other insects near your Dragons tank and the noise the crickets are making drives the Dragon crazy because they can hear them but can’t get to them.
The same can be said if your Dragon can see insects somewhere in the room and can’t get to them.
This can be deeply frustrating for them and while every Bearded Dragon will react differently, some will actually get stressed by this situation.
He’s a list that shares the best places online to purchase live feeders and also get essential equipment such as cricket keepers and food bowls.
Being Over Interested Can Cause Stress Marks
Bearded Dragons that are very excited about something have been known to show stress marks.
Although I can’t find much research to back this up, It’s thought the marks are appearing because they are actually stressed. It’s potentially more of a reaction to the excitement they are feeling and the marks are the only way that this can be shown physically.
Again, I can’t find much research to back up this theory but many experts so mention this as a possible reason why Bearded Dragons get marks on their body.
Why Do Baby Bearded Dragons Get Stress Marks?
Baby Bearded Dragons can get stress marks for exactly the same reasons as adults, however, babies are often reported to get stress marks when first brought home from the pet store or breeder.
This is obviously because everything they have known in their short life has been turned upside down and they have been brought to a strange place with strange surroundings and possibly pets that could be perceived as predators.
As I’m sure you can imagine, this is a lot for a baby Dragon to handle and it’s perfectly normal for them to get stress marks when they have been relocated.
Let’s look at how you can calm down and ultimately settle both baby and adult Bearded Dragons.
How to Calm Down a Stressed Bearded Dragon
If you have a stressed Bearded Dragon you will obviously want to know what is causing the problem but you will also want to know how you can calm down your Dragon as soon as possible.
Here are some techniques you can use to quickly calm your Dragon.
Calming a Bearded Dragon You Have Owned a Long Time
If you have a Bearded Dragon that has been in your care for a while then the method for calming them will be different than if you have just brought a new Dragon home.
If a Bearded Dragon that you have owned for a long period of time gets stress marks it’s always important that you first make sure that the tank size is correct for the age of the Bearded Dragon and make also make sure that they have lots of places to hide so your Dragon can feel safe until they feel comfortable again.
You should try and slowly handle your Bearded Dragon while speaking in a nice tone and have a cuddle. You should gently stroke your Dragon while continuing to talk in a mind manner.
Reassurance from you can help to quickly calm them down. This can also help you to take them away from the source of the problem until you have the chance to sort it out.
Giving your Bearded Dragon a bath is also a great idea to help them settle down. I would only recommend bathing them if they are showing signs of calming whilst having a cuddle. Otherwise, you could be creating yet another stressful situation.
Don’t force the bath, but if your Dragon seems happy to bathe then let them have a soak and this will usually help them to calm down further.
If you follow these simple techniques your Dragon should calm down pretty quickly and it should also give you enough time to find the source of the problem.
Calming Down a Bearded Dragon That Is New To Your Home
Calming a Bearded Dragon that is new to your home is slightly different because chances are they aren’t comfortable with you and therefore won’t trust you and won’t be happy having a cuddle or bath.
In fact, this could make the situation worse. If your Dragon feels happy for you to handle them then, by all means, use the technique above to calm them by cuddling, stroking and bathing them.
If not, then you will have to simply try and make the tank decor look at natural and safe for your new Bearded Dragon as possible, with lots of hides and tunnels for them to escape into until they feel comfortable again.
Here’s a step by step guide to how you can gradually help a new Bearded Dragon to become more comfortable with you is they are stressed in your presence.
Step 1 – Place a cricket on a pair of feeding tweezers and offer it to your Dragon inside the tank. Feed your Dragon this way for the whole mealtime. Don’t try and stroke your Bearded Dragon yet, just get them used to the fact that you are the source of food. (repeat for 3-5 days)
Step 2 – After repeating this for 3-5 days, start the process again using the tweezers and feeding the crickets one by one. Feed 5 crickets and when you feed the 6th you can gently stroke the head of your Dragon briefly ad they take the cricket. Repeat this until the mealtime is over. (repeat for around 3 days)
Step 3 – Repeat this feeding process but gradually start to stroke your Bearded Dragon more often when they take a cricket off the tweezers. You need to use your judgement and see how they react and then either stroke them more or less depending on the reaction.
Step 4 – The final step is to stroke your Bearded Dragon without food being present. Always do this slowly and in the same manner that you did when you were feeding them.
Once your Dragon associates you with the food they should both trust and be calm around you.
Here are some great hides and tunnels that you can use for your Bearded Dragon that I’ve handpicked and listed in this post.
Other Signs Of Stress In a Bearded Dragon
If a Bearded Dragon shows stress marks then it’s an obvious sign that something is wrong and they are either anxious or stressed about something.
The trouble is that they don’t always display these kinds of stress marks and you may have to look for other signs to see when something is bothering your Dragon.
Here are 6 common behaviours that can be a sign of stress in a Bearded Dragon.
Which is back up by beardeddragon101 who also quote these reasons as signs of stress.
Should You Be Worried About Stress Marks On Your Bearded Dragon?
It’s actually quite common for Bearded Dragons to get stress marks and for the most part, they aren’t something you should worry about as long as you try and find the source of the problem and eliminate it, although as we spoke about earlier in the post, some situations will result in stress marks either appearing regularly or the marks staying until adulthood.
As an owner, you should always try and find the reason for the marks and then assess the problem and if you have any concerns I would always recommend going to see your vet for a consultation.
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